A Beautifully Written and Sweeping Epic Fantasy
I really enjoyed the beautifully written 865-page epic fantasy A Day of Fallen Night (The Roots of Chaos #0) by Samantha Shannon. This is the new prequel to The Priory of the Orange Tree.
I loved The Priory of the Orange Tree, but it took me at least 100 pages before I fell into it and the latest book also has a bit of a slow start. After you settle in though it’s hard to put down. Samantha Shannon takes what in the past was traditionally a male-dominated fantasy world and populates it with a diverse cast of powerful and queer women and she then proceeds to paint them with a rich history. Each one of the books details various regions and timelines, mythologies, politics, magic, and dragons, but unlike a male-driven fantasy, these stories are brimming with fierce female characters.
Anyone who enjoyed The Priory of the Orange Tree should enjoy this one too. The world-building here is a bit more complex, but it just adds to the breath of the novel. A Day of Fallen Night expands on the people who inhabit the North, South, East, and West territories and is a deeper dive into their mythology and history. It has all of the elements of the first book, but the new prequel also includes a running theme that highlights mother/daughter relationships, the emotional impacts of being a parent, the decision to bear a child, and the patriarchal expectations of motherhood. We also feel some connection to the present day when we read about some of the religious doctrines which value a woman’s womb and her ability to produce an heir more than they do the actual woman. Ultimately, we see many of these brave women rise above any barriers or traditions and prove their value as mothers, daughters, warriors, and leaders.
The world is populated with a rich tapestry of people of various ages and backgrounds. Queerness is also a societal norm so we have multiple sapphic leads as well as secondary characters. My personal favorites though were the two 50-year-old female spouses who led the Priory, Tunuva and Esbar. They have been in a loving relationship for 30 years and play leading roles in the secret society of the Priory while also being revered as elite fighters.
A Day of Fallen Night is a stand-alone epic fantasy that takes place five centuries before the first book. I think that it doesn’t really matter the order you read these novels since there is such a large time lapse that neither the characters nor the stories overlap. The Priory of the Orange Tree may be a bit more accessible though, so if you haven’t read either of them yet then that one might be a good place to start. If you enjoy The Priory of the Orange Tree you will like A Day of Fallen Night too.